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December 11, 2018

Breastfeeding Brings Many Advantages

by Phil Rooney, Douglas County Health Department

The evidence is conclusive – breastfeeding has tremendous benefits for infants and their mothers. Still, not all mothers decide to breastfeed and many stop too soon.

“Mothers and their children both benefit from breastfeeding,” said Kerry Kernen, Division Chief of Community Health and Nutrition for the Douglas County Health Department. “The data is conclusive.”

Breastfeeding has nutritional benefits to infants and contains important antibodies that may reduce disease risks like middle ear infections or colds and other infections. Breastfeeding sets the stage for improved health later in life and enhances the child’s neurological development.

“Breastmilk also promotes a healthy weight for both mom and baby,” Kerry said.

Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop postpartum depression and have increased amounts of oxytocin in their system. This encourages caregiving, relaxation and bonding between mother and child.  Practically speaking, breastfeeding is also easier on the family pocketbook, saving the cost of buying formula, and it’s always available.

Among the challenges to increasing breastfeeding rates in Douglas County is the perception by some mothers that they aren’t able to produce enough milk, so within the first few weeks they may decide to switch to formula. Others face challenges when they return to school or work with little or no support, including a lack of places to safely and easily pump and store milk.

“Others may have pain or at least discomfort from breastfeeding,” Kerry said.

There are a number of resources within the community that provide support to potential breastfeeding mothers through prenatal classes and with trained lactation consultants in the hospital following delivery. Some services also are available once mothers return home, and are offered by a range of health care providers and other nonprofits. It is always a good idea to first discuss your infant feeding plans with your doctor.

Douglas and Sarpy County have joined efforts and are making a serious attempt to increase breastfeeding locally.

  • Partners from both counties have established a Douglas/Sarpy County Breastfeeding Coalition that has been active since September 2017. The Coalition meets the third Tuesday of each month from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department’s main offices. Everyone is welcome to help build community support for breastfeeding moms. The Coalition’s vision is “Human milk for every baby: anywhere, anytime by anyone. Their mission is to increase the proportion (#) of infant who receive breastmilk (human) in Douglas and Sarpy Counties and have established the following goals:
  1. Increase the proportion of infants who are ever breastfed

 

  1. Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed at 3 months

 

  1. Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed at 6 months

 

  1. Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support

programs

 

  • Partners in Douglas County are building capacity for Community Breastfeeding Educators (CBEs) in north and south Omaha. These women complete a six-week training and are experienced with breastfeeding and learn how to create a supportive environment for mothers who are currently starting or on their breastfeeding journey.
  • The Douglas/Sarpy County Women, Infant, Children (WIC) program will soon be providing Breastfeeding Peer Counselors for breastfeeding mothers in the WIC program. Breastfeeding Peer Counselors complete the “Loving Support” training and are committed to helping new moms navigate the challenges they may face as they start their breastfeeding journey.

Overall, breastfeeding is positive for infants and their families. “When breastfeeding mothers have daily support within their home and community, this best practice tends to continue,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said.

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